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Flood and Furrow Irrigation Techniques

Flood and Furrow Irrigation Techniques

Flood and Furrow Irrigation Techniques

Flood and furrow irrigation is the most common method of agricultural irrigation and has been used for centuries. It is a simple, low-cost method that can be used to irrigate nearly any crop.

Flood and furrow irrigation involve flooding the field with water and then allowing the water to soak into the soil by gravity. This process is repeated multiple times throughout the growing season to ensure the plants receive adequate moisture.

This article will cover some of the basics of flood and furrow irrigation, including calculating how much water you'll need for your crops and several related topics.

Flood Irrigation

Flood irrigation is the most common type of irrigation and involves flooding the land with water. Flood irrigation is often used with furrow irrigation, where water is pulled into a network of narrow channels that run between rows of crops. This helps control how much water reaches each plant and can lead to more efficient water use. Flooding can also be used independently, but it's best suited for certain crops and climates.

Many farmers use flood irrigation because it's simple and inexpensive compared to other techniques. It also allows farmers to plant crops more densely than other irrigation systems. Flooding can also protect against pests such as insects or disease-causing bacteria because these organisms cannot survive in standing water for long periods without oxygen.

Flood irrigation helps create a better moisture profile that increases the time between watering events. The water also improves soil fertility by bringing nutrients from deep in the ground to the surface, making them more accessible to plant roots. The excess moisture in this method also acts as a natural mulch for the plants' roots, preventing evaporation and reducing heat stress on them during hot weather.

However, flooding does have some drawbacks:

  • It requires large amounts of labor due to the need for manual work during planting and harvesting
  • It requires large amounts of land for each crop
  • It requires constant maintenance to keep the soil adequately moistened at all times
  • There may be issues with soil erosion

Furrow Irrigation

Furrow irrigation is a method of watering crops using ditches or trenches. The water is distributed through pipes or hoses laid out in parallel rows across the field. The water is distributed evenly to each row, allowing even distribution of water and nutrients to the plants.

This method is ideal for smaller fields with shallow roots, especially sandy or rocky ones. It's also an excellent choice for areas prone to flooding or erosion, as it prevents excess runoff from carrying away topsoil and nutrients.

The disadvantage of this method is that it requires a lot of manual labor to install drainage systems and pipes and repair them after heavy rainfall events.

Furrow irrigation has been used for thousands of years, but it wasn't until recently that it became a popular technique for agriculture in developed countries. Today, many types of furrow irrigation systems are available to farmers, ranging from relatively simple manual systems to highly automated ones.

Flow Rate Requirements

The flow rate for flood and furrow irrigation is determined by the field's size, the number of rows per acre, and the desired water application rate.

The required flow rate can be calculated using the following equation:

Required Flow Rate = (Desired Water Application Rate / Acre) x Number of Rows per Acre x Width of Row in Feet

For example, if you have a field that is 300 feet wide and you want to apply 25 gallons per minute (GPM) to each row at a depth of 4 inches, your required flow rate would be:

Required Flow Rate = (25 gpm / acre) x 2 rows per acre x 300 feet = 10,000 gallons per minute

Although many factors affect the flow rate of an irrigation system, the most important is the soil type. Sandy soils require less water than clay soils, and sandy soils also drain more quickly than clay soils. Clay soils retain more water after rainfall than sandy soils.

The flow rate requirements for flood and furrow systems vary depending on the type of crop grown and its growth stage. For example, a young field corn crop will use more water in its early stages of growth than an older field corn crop because it needs to develop its root system before going into dormancy for winter.

Another factor that affects flow rate requirements is how long your system has been in place. Newer systems will first require more significant amounts of water because they need to "break in" and become fully functional.

Water Conservation

Water conservation is a vitally important aspect of flood and furrow irrigation techniques, as it helps to ensure that crops receive enough water without wasting water resources.

It is one of the oldest methods of watering crops, and it remains a highly effective way to irrigate a field with minimal water usage. This technique uses gravity to distribute water throughout the field, so no pumps are necessary.

The process begins by digging two parallel trenches in opposite directions across the field (a "T" shape). One trench is dug deeper than the other so that when water is added, it will flow through both trenches at once. This creates a path for excess water from one trench to drain into another. The trenches are then filled with gravel or stone that allows for free drainage but keeps soil from being washed away by rain or irrigation runoff.


There are many techniques and methods for water management that are agriculture-specific and others that are more adaptable for residential use, and both techniques are effective for growing crops. However, only one can be used in every situation. The decision to use flood or furrow irrigation depends on the type of crop, the type of soil it is growing, and how much rain has fallen during the previous months.